Daily Report Emails Encourage Retention & User Activity0
“25 DAYS OF INSPIRATIONAL EMAILS” — DAY 24: INTERCOM
A few weeks ago, we started using Intercom, a web-based app that lets us see more detailed information about how people are using Litmus. Since we signed up, they’ve been sending us daily report emails that contain a summary of activity from the previous day. These emails recently got a facelift, going from a largely unbranded message that simply listed new signups, to a colorful and comprehensive email that adds value for users while encouraging interaction with the product.
BEFORE: UNBRANDED, LIMITED VALUE
Intercom’s old daily report email was completely unbranded and very simple, listing each new user, their location, and social profile/photo (if available).
The subject line was equally simple, following a data-driven formula, “Litmus: 84 people signed up yesterday.” Overall, these emails didn’t provide a ton of value (aside from providing me with a very long list of all the new users that signed up yesterday). I frequently deleted them after noting the number of new signups in the subject line.
AFTER: BRANDED, RESPONSIVE, VALUE-DRIVEN
Midway through December, I noticed the subject line of these emails had changed. Rather than the standard, “xx people signed up yesterday,” the names of the companies the users were associated with started showing up as well: “Litmus: xx people signed up yesterday, including people from Acme, Lexcorp and Gadgetron.” After opening the email, I noticed a whole lot more had changed, too! More than just a subject line update, the entire email has been overhauled and now includes “new and interesting” users, a list of new users and users that have been inactive for 30 days.
While you could deduce the brands and companies of new users from their email address in the old design, the new design pulls this information out and displays it more prominently. This small addition makes the subject line and email much more engaging—well-known brands catch my eye and make it fun to skim the report to look for names I recognize.
The new daily report is packed with engaging, action-driven language that encourages me to click and, more importantly, log into Intercom and start using their product. The old design didn’t do much in the way of encouraging interaction, however the new design features prominent calls-to-action and valuable information—all packaged into a responsive design that will look great to matter where or when I read it.
The email is now a daily reminder of how I can (and should) use Intercom to help our users get the most out of our product. Not only is the email providing value to me as a user of Intercom’s product, it’s also giving me a gentle nudge to go use their software, reminding me of Intercom’s value to our business—which increases the likelihood of me staying on as a paying customer. That retention can be crucial to subscription software businesses!
RESPONSIVE DESIGN, IMAGES-OFF OPTIMIZATION
Intercom uses some simple media queries to make the daily report email easier to read on a mobile device. On screens 480px and smaller, the overall width of the email is decreased, the three-column feature goes down to one-column, and the “new user” and “slipping away” sections slim down from three columns to two. While these small changes definitely make a big improvement on small screens, the email still contains a ton of content—it may be wise to consider hiding or removing content for mobile users.
The email also looks great with images off; since the buttons are created entirely with HTML and CSS, they look exactly the same when images are disabled. Even the rounded corners use CSS3! This technique preserves the calls-to-action since the buttons don’t rely on images—ensuring that the email will always be readable.
MODERN CSS & LENGTH SKEW RENDERING
The only downfall to using this type of CSS-driven button design is that it’s not supported in all email clients. In Outlook 2007+, the buttons lose their rounded edges and clean design. While they’re still readable (and clickable!), they’ve lost a little luster. In addition, Outlook doesn’t inherit parent table styling, so all the fonts in the body of the email have defaulted back to Times New Roman. While this isn’t a critical rendering problem, it certainly affects the overall branding of the email. The fix is simple, although annoying: by including font styles in each container <td> cell, the fonts will display correctly.
I noticed a couple other small, although not insignificant rendering issues. In Hotmail (now being phased into Outlook.com), a few of the subheads are green, rather than dark gray. Again, the fix is simple: by adding an inline !important declaration to these <h2> elements, Hotmail should behave and honor the specified colors. In Gmail, most of my daily report emails were “clipped” because the message was too long (Gmail has a 102kb limit on email size—just the HTML, not including images). Unfortunately, the only solution in this case is to reduce the size of the email: either by simplifying the HTML or removing some of the content. Since some of my daily report emails are VERY long, I’d suggest streamlining the content. There’s simply too much information contained in some of my emails to be effective or valuable.
TRANSACTIONAL + RESPONSIVE + ENGAGING = WINNING
Despite a few rendering quirks, Intercom’s redesigned daily report email showcases how excellent transactional or triggered messages can be. The data-driven content inspires me to interact with both the email and their product. Plus, it’s packaged into a responsive design that will look great in any environment.
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